Monday, September 19, 2011

I want this man to have 75,000 fans. At least.

Friend, allow me to introduce you to J. Roddy Walston.

Isn't this picture exciting?  It's like Mr. Walston is looking right at me.

I went to ACL Fest this weekend, and this man and his band ("The Business") were my hands-down favorite.  

A few years ago, I told my editor at PlanetGreen that I was going to SXSW, and she said: "Oh my God! You have to see my friend.  He's playing at SXSW this year and he's so excited.  Also he's really good.  J. Roddy Walston and The Business -- promise me you'll go see him?"

I thought about it.  "J. Roddy Walston and The Business."  We just aren't living in a time anymore when bands announce their frontman separately, reverentially, apart from their backing band, ya know?  Diana Ross and The Supremes.  Lionel Richie and The Commodores.  That was Motown, but now, it's more hip to simply be "The" something.  When you parse them out from the rest of the band, it puts the pressure on that one, singled-out frontperson to REALLY perform.

And The Business is terrific.  Truly.  More than terrific.  

But J. Roddy Walston the individual is one of God's great wonders.  And your new iPod addition.  And hopefully someday my best friend.

There was a very distinct period in my mid-20s when all I wanted to listen to was synthesizers.  I went to a Ghostland Observatory show in a tiny San Francisco bar when I was 23, and the experience imprinted this thing into my brain, like it wasn't just fun music that these two people were creating, but something deeper.  Something like membership.  It was as if they were communicating with this secret code that I got, a code that sounded an awful like all that Nintendo and Game Boy I played as a kid.  And maybe that's why synth music is so in right now, because all the Nintendo Kids have grown up, and we're nostalgic about the way our childhoods sounded.  Or at least the way our video games sounded.

Which leads me back to J. Roddy Walston.  He is NOT a snyth player.  This is a piano man.  

J. Roddy Walston and The Business is a loud, rowdy rock band, with a pedal-kicking, ivory-pounding, banshee-screaming maniac at the helm.  In a world of detached hipsterism, J. Roddy is so fucking into what he's doing up there.  It's refreshing.  It is without irony.  I think it's timely.

And, it's also a throwback.  That Jerry Lee Lewis brand of piano playing -- really, who does that anymore?  I was trying to think about super-famous-and-current piano people after I left this set, and all I came up with was Tori Amos and that one YouTube video of Lady Gaga playing piano at a talent show, before she was Lady Gaga.  Is that it?

Probably not.  Anyway, I think that J. Roddy Walston may be the love child of The Black Crows and Little Richard.  I hope he comes back to Austin.  I know he'd love it here.  I also know he'd enjoy hanging out (with me).  I'd introduce him to plenty of facial-haired brethren and I would also show him how I can play "Fur Elise" and "The Entertainer" on his piano.  Oh, think you're a big rockstar huh?  Wait 'til you get a load of my JOPLIN!

  Here's J. Roddy Walston and The Business doing their thing at ACL Saturday.  The man plays guitar and piano, and as this post has hopefully demonstrated the best way to see them is live, with piano.  He plays it with his whole body.  Around minute 1:18 I became genuinely concerned that J. Roddy might give himself a concussion on the piano.

So good!

Who was your favorite act at ACL this year, fellow attendees?

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